Guest post: Kirsten Downer on the Surrey Canal redevelopment

The surest way of killing off a discussion about why Brockley Central hasn't written about a particular subject is normally to suggest to the person asking that they write something themselves as a guest column.

However, reader Kirsten Downer has done what almost never happens and written an article. So in the spirit of both plurality and laziness on BC's part, here it is:

The plans for redevelopment of Surrey Canal (which includes approximately 2,500 new homes) that were submitted earlier this month are - I believe - seriously flawed, for the following reasons:

- the level of 'social housing' - developers have recently switched to saying that provision of social housing with any scheme is within or close to guidelines by counting the number of habitable rooms - ignoring the fact that it is family units that require housing and therefore it is units of housing that are needed to make any dent in Lewisham's homelessness problem. Poor provision of social housing is an important issue to highlight because some people are hoodwinked by promises of extra housing.

- Building heights. Many problems here - wind, interference with TV reception, sunlight (both for those in the new flats and those in the surroundings). Here the developers try to blind with science but there is usually some statement admitting that there is a problem (eg for the Gateway certain areas became 'dangerous' for cyclists due to the wind effects!)

- Highways and congestion - TfL and the Highways Agency seem to bend over backward to permit these schemes, but there are usually increased levels of congestion and air pollution.

- General lack of infrastructure. There will be increased pressure on medical facilities and schools and no provision in the schemes to provide it.

Whilst it seems many Brockleyites see this area as a dump, people like me actually manage to live here and we don't feel that more concrete and glass will improve it. Why is it always assumed that more housing units are what is required to regenerate an area?

The area could support some more housing but not on this scale. What it needs is clean air, more green spaces and more local independent useful shops such as a bakers, greengrocers etc. 300 small businesses exist on the development site already - why not keep these these and expand on them to create a new 'green industry' zone, for example. As for brownfield sites: they may not look so obviously pretty as woodland but they have been shown to be magnificent biodiverse urban habitats, especially for invertebrates.

Those out there who share residents' concerns have til 14 March to make their opinions known, by contacting Chris Brodie, Principal Planning Officer

The Council seems to be politically committed to this decision, as was the case with the huge Loampit Vale development - lessons learned from Loampit Vale campaigners is that the only way to stop developments like this are forming a campaign coalition early on to exert political pressure. If anyone out there has 5 minutes to set up a Facebook page about the Surrey Canal Road development concerns, then that could help galvanise such a campaign. Takers, anyone?